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Making a splash: joint operators practice water survival skills

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Alexandria Panduro, aircrew flight equipment technician at the 144th Fighter Wing, jumps towards the life raft to prepare for the helicopter extraction at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado, San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Alexandria Panduro, aircrew flight equipment technician at the 144th Fighter Wing, jumps towards the life raft to prepare for the helicopter extraction at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado, San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60J helicopter piloted by U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Tara Strauss hoists an Airmen out of the ocean while rescue swimmer Chief Petty Officer Tyler Holt prepares to drop back into the water at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 9. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60J helicopter piloted by U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Tara Strauss hoists an Airmen out of the ocean while rescue swimmer Chief Petty Officer Tyler Holt prepares to drop back into the water at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 9. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt.  Micahel O’Brien, high risk training instructor, pulls U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Thomas Schneider, 162nd Wing F-16 pilot, out of the water after the helicopter extraction exercise at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 9. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Micahel O’Brien, high risk training instructor, pulls U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Thomas Schneider, 162nd Wing F-16 pilot, out of the water after the helicopter extraction exercise at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 9. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Zachary Bailey, 144th Fighter Wing pilot, navigates the parachute entanglement portion of water survival training at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Zachary Bailey, 144th Fighter Wing pilot, navigates the parachute entanglement portion of water survival training at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey L. Butler, 162d Wing Commander, steps off the dock for the parachute drag portion of water survival training at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness.  U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey L. Butler, 162d Wing Commander, steps off the dock for the parachute drag portion of water survival training at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

Aircrew Flight Equipment Technicians Tech Sgt. Alexandria Panduro, 144th Fighter Wing, and Staff Sgt. Vincent Rico, 162nd Wing, pull the rope for the parachute drag portion of water survival training at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

Aircrew Flight Equipment Technicians Tech Sgt. Alexandria Panduro, 144th Fighter Wing, and Staff Sgt. Vincent Rico, 162nd Wing, pull the rope for the parachute drag portion of water survival training at Naval Amphibious Air Base Coronado in San Diego, July 10. Pilots must complete water survival training every three years to maintain combat readiness. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Aubrey Pomares)

SAN DIEGO, CA -- Nearly 100 Air National Guardsmen from two units completed water survival training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, July 9 and 10.

Pilots and aircrew flight equipment technicians from the 162nd Wing, Tucson, Arizona, and the 144th Fighter Wing, Fresno, California, teamed up for this year’s event, making it the largest water survival exercise the 162nd Wing has held to date.

“Pilots are required to go through water survival training every three years, so the information really gets ingrained. That way if there is an emergency and a pilot has to eject into the ocean, they know how to react,” said Master Sgt. Kyle Hoagland, 162nd Operations Group aircrew flight equipment flight chief.

Each training day began with a classroom lesson covering open-water survival tactics. After the briefing, the pilots practiced a series of tasks including the parachute drag simulation, parachute entanglement and entering an inflated raft safely.

“Their raft is what is going to keep them alive, so they need to know how to get into it without popping it or losing any of their equipment,” said Hoagland.

The training day culminated with a simulated open-water rescue, by the U.S. Coast Guard. Sixty-two Airmen were hoisted out of the ocean by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60J Jayhawk helicopter, providing a realistic training scenario for both pilots and the Coast Guard’s rescue team.

“The ocean training with the helicopter hoist is about as close to the actual experience as you can get. It’s loud, and the water spray is so powerful you can’t see or hear,” said Capt. Daniel LaCroix, pilot with the 162nd Operations Group. “I think that’s something no one thinks about. Definitely not something a Power Point presentation can prepare you for.”

The Marine Corps Amphibious Raid Branch also played an integral role in the exercise, providing water transportation, safety, and medical support. U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jonathan Hernandez, high risk training instructor, said joint training exercises are vital to combat readiness.

“Deployment environments are almost always joint force, so it’s good to get an idea of how other branches operate, their communication procedures and their safety practices,” said Hernandez. “We can learn from them, they can take some ideas from us, and we just get a better understanding of how our brothers and sisters around the armed forces operate.”

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